Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Full Frame Myth

I get a lot of emails asking me about lens choices. Some people get so confused. I was recently asked what the best portrait lens was in a specific price range. I responded that the 85mm 1.8 is a great choice. The reply was, well, with my camera, that would make it a 136mm lens, and that is too long I think. That got me to has been hashed out on internet forums, magazines, trade shows over and over again, but no one is grasping it correctly. Your camera does NOT change the focal length of a lens.

There is a lot of talk about Full Frame cameras. I hate to be the bearer of news that will go against what everyone in the world has believed in for so long, but all Digital SLR cameras are full frame. They may just not have the same size frame. There are 35mm sized sensors, there are APS-C sensors, there are sensors between 35mm and APS-C, there are sensors smaller, there are medium format sensors that are much larger than even a 35mm sized sensor. But they are all full frame. Now a few, some of the newer offerings from Nikon (D2X) and from some smaller companies that do, in effect, crop the sensor some. The D2X does this to improve speed. It's APS-C sensor is cropped down to a lower resolution and this increases the frames per second it can shoot. There are new cameras that will adjust the crop of the sensor to give you a HDTV orientation, or a 4x3 or a 5x7 crop. But none of these effect your lens focal length.

Before diving into digital "lens conversion", let's look back at film. As digital was emerging, there were two main consumer film sizes. APS and 35mm. APS was not as popular, and actually looked to be dying, and 35mm had been the standard for so long. The step up from 35mm was medium format. For this story, we will look at the 645 size, or 6cmx4.5cm.

Every camera type had a standard lens. With 35mm, the normal lens was a 50mm. If you kept both eyes open, it was very close to equal what you saw through the camera and with your naked eye (45mm was almost the exact as the naked eye). But you put a 50mm lens on a APS camera, things appeared bigger. Not really. The size of the film is not as big as the size of a 35mm frame, so the view you got was actually coming from the center portion of the lens. In effect cropping the lens. was still a 50mm lens. You put a 50mm lens on a APS camera, it was what you expected. Now put a 50mm lens on a medium format camera and it acts as a wide angle lens. It will show much more area than on a 35mm frame, but it is still a 50mm lens. If you wanted an image to look the same from camera format to camera format, on your APS camera, a 35mm would be a good choice, 50mm for 35mm, and 80mm for medium format, but the lens focal lengths do not change.

In the digital age, that is the same. So you have an Olympus system that states 2x lens conversion. Incorrect. The frame is smaller than a 35mm frame, but it is not magnifying the lens at all, so a 100mm lens is still a 100mm lens, but compare a shot from an Olympus E-300 to that of a Canon 1Ds with a 200mm lens on it, you will at first think, that the Olympus really is doubling the lens. But it is not. The 100mm lens is acting like a 100mm lens from telephoto compression to DOF. What is commonly known as Field of View Crop, which is close to accurate, the smaller sensor is only using part of the lens. Now some manufacturers have made lenses that take this into account, but they are not "new" lenses. In fact, they are the same type lenses that were made for film cameras, but ground down to a smaller physical size. This makes them smaller and lighter and unusable on cameras with larger sensors. What makes a 50mm lens a 50mm lens is the fact that a certain part of the lens is 50mm from the sensor or film plane. So, if you could cut your lens and camera in half and measure from a specific point in the lens to the sensor you would find it the same distance in mm as your lens focal length. It does not matter what lens or what camera. On a 1Ds, a 30D, a Rebel Xt, a 50mm lens will always measure 50mm. So when you throw that 300mm lens on your Rebel, do not think that you are effectively shooting a lens that is 480mm. Your 300mm lens is still just a 300mm lens.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A New Blog coming soon

Well, my personal project is off and running, so far with only one client. But, I am going to be working on setting up a new blog specifically for my personal project. PhotoBag will keep going, but the still to be named blog will specifically target things to do in the Eagle River, Alaska area. From clubs, to recreation, to what to do on a Friday night, and the likes. I hope to have something new posted to it once a week. So, stay tuned.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Personal Project - The Start

I have started my long and big personal project. Last night I visited the Eagle River Fencing Club to take some test shots and get some ideas for my main shoot there over the next few weeks. I am also working with a new Photoshop technique that can give photos an old, film like look. I applied the process to this test image because with fencing being an old world sport, I thought the old film look worked with it.

Digital Fix Myth

Back in the days before digital cameras and Photoshop were common to everyone, when you bought a lens, you dealt with what ever characteristics the lens had. If it was a wide angle, you lived with the way it could distort images. If it was a super telephoto, you could see some distortion sometime known as barrel distortion. But when shooting film, people lived with it. Now with digital and Photoshop, everyone seems to want to fix these "flaws" where in reality, you are not making your image any better. Once you decide to remove a WA pincushion look to an image, or fix barrel distortion, you now have an altered image. Let's say you take a photo of some newsworthy event with a wide angle or fish eye lens, you captured the moment, but before you try to sell it to a newspaper, you run it through Photoshop and you slightly adjust contrast, color and sharpening. Fine. 99.9999% of the pro media shooters do this and it is an accepted practice, but you do not like the effect the wide angle lens did to people in the photo away from the center of the photo? No worries, run it through a Photoshop lens correction filter, or DxO labs plug in and you are good to go, everyone is straight, and the scene is just like you saw it with your naked eye. Wrong. This is now an altered image. While minor adjustments to color or contrast are accepted, physically changing the image with a third party plug in like this is not acceptable. You now have a computer altered image. It would now be unethical to try to sell this as a news image. It is fine for people doing art prints, landscapes and the like, but for news photos, no way. Do not alter an image beyond what you could easily do in the darkroom with film. Levels and contrast or curves is the equivalent of how much light you give your negative when printing it. Cropping is basically the same, although should be used on a very limited basis and never to purposely crop something relevant to the story out. Color can be determined with the film you used or paper you printed on, so color adjustments, again, lightly, are fine. Sharpening or USM is similar to focusing the enlarger. Anyone with basic film darkroom experience can do this and you can easily do this in Photoshop, but to physically change the way your gear captures a scene is not right. If you captured it with a wide angle lens, then you should understand that any pincushion effects it may have caused is normal and should be left alone. Live with it. Learn how to use your gear to lessen the effects like this. Do not get into the idea or mind set that you can fix it later in Photoshop, because you are no longer a photographer then, you are now a digital artist.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Touching base on Personal Project

I had a meeting this last weekend that should get my personal project rolling. I actually have come up with some interesting ideas too to go along with it. This week I will be checking out a local Fencing Club (not white picket, but actual swords) and next week I will be photographing both the club and the school.

As I said in a previous post, I want to show people new to Eagle River, as well as people who have lived here for a while, all there is to do in our small town. That there is no need to complain, or sit at home because there is just nothing to do around town. Clubs, groups, and organizations are one of the things I want to focus on, and will probably be my first set of photos I do. My project is going to consist of activities, food, church, entertainment, etc.

Originally I had the idea that I would put together the photos and search out someone to print it and sell it. Now, I think what I will be doing is putting together a blog, for Eagle River activities and each week try to add something new. I am hoping to have the local paper also participate by running a photo a week or at least a month on one of these fun or little known events.

Once I feel it is near completion, I want to put all of the info onto a interactive CD and distribute to local churches, Realtors, visitor centers, etc. Kind of a welcome to Eagle River deal. Included in the CD will be coupons from local businesses profiled on the CD (advertising to help pay for this). I am real excited to get a chance to do something like this. It is going to be a long, hard run putting it together, but it should keep my busy.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Sweet Georgia Brown

After a 10 year absence in the State of Alaska, the Harlem Globetrotters made their way into the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, Alaska on Thursday the 4th of May.

Globetrotter Kevin "Special K" Daley reacts to a call made by the refs during the first of two games in Anchorage.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Bird Flu

Working on a media project on bird flu in our local waterfoul public feeding areas gave my remote Xt a work out. Here is the set up that I talked about in a previous post.

As you can see, I hooked my ball head (Bogen grip tripod head) to a small wheel. For larger lenses, I may look at a larger wheel for more stability, but with the 17-40 and the Xt, it works pretty well.

Bird Flu

In 1918, 87 years ago, 72 people died in Brevig Mission after a pandemic caused by bird flu occurred. In fact, tens of millions of people died from this version of the avian flu. This is something that we all do not want to see happen again. While scientists are studying the current H5N1 strain to figure out a way to contain it, a little common sense and taking precautions can go a long way in protecting yourself if you come in contact with wild birds.

As a photographer in Eagle River, I thoroughly enjoy visiting our local water fowl viewing location, the duck pond at the Duck Pond Car Wash. There are many different species that make up the year round residents of the duck pond. Dozens and dozens of male and female mallards, domesticated ducks, geese of many flavors, peacocks, various chickens and their furry friends, those long eared bunnies. These by themselves seem harmless, with the exception of the geese who find it fun to try to bite your fingers as you feed them. The ability to get so close to these animals even as domesticated as they are, is great for photography. And this is part of the draw of any duck pond. But this can also be a drawback for health and safety. Even with a daily cleaning or the visitors area, birds are not clean animals. They stand on the railings, picnic table, and boardwalks, and unlike humans, when they feel the need to go, they go. Then, as spring rolls in, these friendly, fun critters are joined by temporary guests, which include Canadian Geese and hundreds of Seagulls, including my favorite, the Bonaparte Gull. This infusion of truly wild animals and domesticated animals can cause a major problem if even one of the new residents is carrying the dreaded bird flu.

The H5N1 Bird Flu, which is mainly found in Asia, greatly in regions of China, is becoming widespread with cases reported as far away as Nigeria and Scotland. It is only a matter of time before this virus makes its way to the United States. Experts predict that the far west coast of Alaska, around the city of Nome and villages like Brevig Mission will see the first signs of the flu. Thinking of how far the Canadian Geese fly on their seasonal migration, it is only a matter of time before it makes its way through the state and into our back yards and to the duck pond. In Asia, the unfortunate answer to the bird flu is to kill all the birds in areas where the flu is found. Domestic, farm, wild. Anything that might continue the disease is destroyed. Eradication is currently the only answer until scientists come up with a cure. Not all birds are carrying the bird flu, but there is no telling what any of these birds may be carrying.

I do not want to tell anyone to stay away from their local duck pond in fear of getting sick, but you can take precautions to make sure you and your loved ones stay safe. Using a little common sense can go a long way in protecting you and your loved ones. If you are taking a lunch to the pond, take a table cloth with you and have pleanty of wet naps with you. The birds have the run of the place and while the picnic tables are kept pretty clean, you never know when any one of the birds may have decided it was a great place to use as a out house. Have a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you and clean your hands after you feed the animals. Keep the urge to pet the “tame” water foul in check. I have seen many times a young child excited about touching the pretty feathers on the birds and then sit down for their happy meal. Not only is this a good idea to prevent the possibility of picking up something that you may not want, but I have found out the hard way, these birds bite.

Flu or no flu, just keeping yourself clean is always a good idea after coming in contact with outdoor animals. Also, if you have any suspicions that a bird is infected with the bird flu or some other disease, contact your local authorities as soon as possible.